The East Durham Heritage Group (EDHG) was formed in early 2009 by a small number of like-minded individuals who were interested in the maritime, industrial and social heritage of the East Durham area. The Group meets regularly to pool knowledge and to collect heritage based documents, photographs etc. to enable the information to be collated and recorded for the benefit of present and future generations. Since May 2009 the Group’s major project has been managing the restoration of the George Elmy lifeboat that was stationed in Seaham Harbour between June 1950 and November 1962.
In 1949 the RNLI commissioned the East Cowes boat builder Groves & Guttridge to produce a twin-engine, Liverpool class boat, official number ON 873. The boat was funded from a legacy of Miss Elizabeth Elmy, a spinster of Stoke Newington, London. In remembrance of her late brother George, she had requested it was named George Elmy. The newly built lifeboat arrived on station at Seaham Harbour in January 1950 and was named George Elmy by Lady Londonderry on the 26th June 1950.
George Elmy and her crew responded to 26 calls for assistance and rescued 20 persons in 12 years until the night of 17th November 1962 when the call came to go to the aid of the fishing coble The Economy. This call proved to be the last for the George Elmy and her brave crew. Having rescued all five on board the Economy she began the return to the safety of her home port. Unfortunately, within a boat length of the South Pier a freak wave overwhelmed the lifeboat and all but one of those on board was lost. The disaster devastated the town and the whole country. A fund was raised by Seaham Urban District Council for the families of all who were lost, but the memory has never been forgotten.
After inspection and subsequent repair by the RNLI, George Elmy was put back into service as a relief boat, then into the reserve fleet serving some time at Poole harbour. She was eventually sold out of service in 1972 for the sum of £600.
She then began a career as a fishing boat in various harbours until offered for sale on eBay in May 2009. She was then bought from the highest bidder by the East Durham Heritage Group with the aid of a loan from local fisherman Tommy Smith, the George Elmy arrived back in Seaham 15th May 2009.
Fundraising then began in earnest and with the aid of major national funders and many local donations from all sides of the community the target was reached in early April 2011 to allow the restoration of the historic vessel to begin.
East Durham Heritage Group efforts continue to locate fixtures and fittings and to raise awareness and interest in the project with the intention of completing the restoration and returning the George Elmy to Seaham Harbour under her own power.
During the period of restoration the East Durham Heritage Group continued with its plans to bring heritage knowledge to all ages of the community by visiting schools, holding photographic exhibitions in the area and extending its collection of preserved documents. To this end the Group is currently based at North Dock Marina, Seaham from where it continues its work.
Information kindly provided by Mr Ernie Cooper, Mr. George Maitland and Mr Brian Scollen.
The George Elmy returned to Seaham in June, 2013 fully restored.
The ultimate aim of the East Durham Heritage Group is to have a Heritage Centre within Seaham to create a focal point of interest that will attract both the local community and tourists alike to raise the town profile as a thriving tourist destination.